Big bulls visit Hardware Ranch to feed and socialize.
The animals know. When the weather turns and days become shorter, bad weather is not far behind. And so they begin to move. In this case it’s the elk herds to the north, and they are moving to the “ranch.’’
Hardware Ranch, specifically, located East of Hyrum and southeast of Logan. It means, too, that there will be elk for the annual Elk Festival. The ranch will open to the public on Dec. 14 and the festival will be held Dec. 15.
There are currently 100 to 150 elk—cows, calves and bulls—in the meadows east of the corrals at the ranch. And it could be said they are there right on cue. Or, right on time for the festival planned by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Activities include rides into the midst of the elk herds on wagon beds, making Christmas ornaments from vegetation and turning a pinecone into the bird feeder, along with other educational programs.
It usually takes a good snow to push elk into the meadows, at which time the DWR will begin a winter feeding program. Snow and food are what draw the elk into easy viewing areas.
Big bull elk are a popular attraction at Hardware Ranch in the winter.
According to Brad Hunt, ranch manager for the DWR, the elk began moving down in early December. By January and February there could be as many as 600 to 700 elk in the meadows wintering on the ranch.
This is actually a perfect time to view elk, especially the big bulls. They still hold their antlers and will do so until early March. There’s nothing more majestic than a mature bull displaying a full set of antlers.
The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The only charge will be for wagon rides through the herds. The cost is $5 for those 9 and older, $3 for kids 4 to 8 and free for those 3 and younger.
The rides lasts approximately 20 minutes. Visitors are urged to dress warmly and bring a camera and binoculars. The ride creates the opportunity for some memorable photos. The sleighs often come within five to 10 feet of the wild elk. While on the ride, sleigh drivers give information about the ranch and the elk that winter on the feeding area. No reservations are required to ride the sleighs.
There will be staff at the visitors center to teach how to make ornaments using sagebrush, bitterbrush and other plants found on the ranch. There will also be other activities for children, such as painting replicas of fish.
The ranch is located about 17 miles east of Hyrum on U-101 and about 25 miles southeast of Logan. Drive time from Salt Lake City is about two hours.
Ranch hours are Friday and Monday from noon to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The center will be open on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but there will be no rides.
Click here for more information. You can also call the ranch at 435-753-6206.
Wagon rides take visitors out into the midst of the large herds.
Diet: Grasses, sedges and forbs
Weight: 325 to 1,100 pounds
Size at shoulders: 4 to 5 feet
Life span in wild: 8 to 12 years
Group name: Gang